Carlin’s ascendance to the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2018 will seem like a reunion on several fronts for the globally successful British racing team.
Several successful Verizon IndyCar Series drivers have driven for the team in the past, including Carlin’s drivers for next season, Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball, who were Chip Ganassi Racing teammates the past two seasons.
The culmination after three years of learning American racing in Indy Lights – the top level of the INDYCAR-sanctioned development ladder – came at an ideal time, team principal Trevor Carlin said in a conference call today. The fact that series teams are learning a new chassis and aero kit means Carlin, which has thrived for two decades, will be entering at a time where every team will be making adjustments with a new car.
“We had a year of consolidation in 2017, where we increased the size of the team slightly,” Carlin said. “Now with the new aero kit and new regulations, 2018 was the obvious time for us to step forward. And then with having the possibility to have two ex-Carlin winning drivers for us with Max and Charlie, the stars really aligned. It was one of those things that was destined to happen, really.”
The lengthy list of former Carlin drivers includes reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil winner Takuma Sato, 2014 series champion Will Power and 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Ed Jones.
“It will be great fun, really,” Carlin said. “It will be like a reunion in the paddock, there’s so many guys who have raced for us. It will be fun when we're on the pit row and chatting, but when the drivers get in the car, it gets serious. We'll be doing our best to beat them, but race them cleanly and fairly.”
Chilton, a 26-year-old English driver who made 35 Formula One starts in 2013-14, finished fifth and won at Iowa while driving Indy Lights for Carlin in 2015. Kimball, a 32-year-old Californian who was born in England, finished second for Carlin in the British Formula 3 championship in 2005. Chilton also drove for Carlin in 2009, finishing fourth in British Formula 3, and in 2011 and 2012 in the GP2 Series, the latter year finishing fourth.
“I’m over the moon. It’s been a long time coming,” said Chilton, whose 11th-place Verizon IndyCar Series finish last season was highlighted by a series-best fourth in the Indianapolis 500.
“I always say to people, Carlin to me is like home. It’s where my heart has been and it’s where my heart will always be. I have always left to go to other teams … but there was always a part of me back at Carlin. I’ve been waiting for this to happen. My whole career, the best years of my career have been at Carlin. I’ve never not won for them in British Formula 3, GP2 and Indy Lights. I’m hopeful we can get a victory in the 2018 season. That would be remarkably good to keep that consecutive win (streak) going.”
Kimball, a Verizon IndyCar Series regular since 2011, has one career win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2013. He finished as high as ninth in the points twice, most recently in 2016.
“Racing for Carlin has always felt like family,” Kimball said. “In fact, my sister met her husband, my brother-in-law, when he was working for Carlin while I was racing for Trevor. There’s more than just that familial feel with racing for the team. It runs deeper than that.
“The future for Carlin North America is very bright, but also for the Verizon IndyCar Series. It’s proof that the series is growing and becoming more viable globally.”
Chilton and Kimball have retained primary sponsors in Gallagher and Novo Nordisk, respectively, for their Chevrolet-powered cars.
“Carlin are arguably the best single-make Formula team in the world, and INDYCAR next year is going to be the nearest to it (that) it's ever been,” Chilton said. “So it's the right time, as Trevor said, to jump in and go guns blazing. I think we've got the right programs aboard to get quick.”
Kimball looks forward to being teammates with Chilton again.
“I've learned a lot from Max about different approaches and concepts, and I hope he's been able to learn from some of my experience in INDYCAR,” Kimball said. “And having that dialogue, that relationship, that communication, that foundation already built means that when we get to the racetrack for the first time, we're not learning each other as people or as drivers, we're just getting to work on getting up to speed.”